The New Milford Borough Council cancelled its April meeting due to concerns about the corona virus epidemic. They made up for it on May 21st, but briefly. There were 8 people in the room for the duration of the meeting, generally separated and appropriately masked. Not knowing what will happen weeks or months from now, members debated what to do about the community pool.
Council President Teri Gulick broached the subject with a proposal that the pool be prepared for opening. She said that the preparations should uncover any maintenance issues that, if left unattended for another year, might end up being worse later. Of course no one yet knows when the state will allow such facilities to open up, or what the regulations might be when and if they do. No one is even sure what a "green zone" might mean in this situation. At the moment, with Susquehanna County now entering the yellow zone, the parks will remain officially closed. In fact, a request by a youth baseball organization to use the field at the park was set aside because of the uncertainties.
Questions and concerns swirled around among the Council members regarding such things as:
The company that usually operates the pool has said that they wouldn't expect crowds, with many people reluctant to expose their families. Yet still, nobody knows. It generally costs about $2,000 to open the pool; the borough has budgeted $75,000 for the pool this year. The borough's maintenance employee said that he could open the pool himself, but that any significant repairs would have to be contracted, and pool contractors generally need to be scheduled much earlier than this.
In the end no decision was taken, with the situation remaining unclear. The other major park, the green in the center of town, was to host the annual Mid-Town Festival, but that has been cancelled. All of the donors have been offered refunds, but only one has accepted, the others suggesting that the money be paid forward for next year. Council did authorize the purchase of enough mulch to at least make the parks look nice, even if they can't be used.
Ms. Gulick reported on the final settlement of litigation involving a resident who was operating a business in an area zoned for residential use only. The matter arose some months ago when the property owner applied for a zoning waiver, was denied, and he continued to operate the business anyway. He took it to court and lost all the way up, with the final judgement awarding the borough $25,800 in fines and fees.
Council will ask solicitor Michael Briechle to draw up an ordinance implementing the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) for the borough. The IPMC program offers substantial assistance in controlling blight, but at a cost in the maintenance of at least one person fully trained in its terms and procedures.
Considering that it covered two month's worth of business, the meeting was relatively brief, lasting only about 40 minutes. The comprehensive treasurer's report covering March and April shows expenses almost precisely on track for the year so far against the budget. Income from the Mid-Town Festival is lost, of course, but other expenses are also lower. Ms. Gulick wondered if there was something the borough could do to help its struggling businesses, but it was hard for anyone to see what could be done with the limited resources available.
The New Milford Borough Council meets in public session on the third Thursday of each month beginning at 7:30pm in the Borough Building on Main Street. Bring a mask.
On Wednesday evening, May 20th, the Cub Scouts of Pack 81 and Boy Scouts of Troop 81 (Stone Bridge Lions Club is their Charter Organization) of the Delahanna District of the Baden-Powell Council replaced the Americans flags on the graves of veterans in St. John's Cemetery in Susquehanna and Lanesboro Cemetery.
Thanks were extended to everyone who turned out to help. This is one of the best events the boys do every year. It teaches them history, patriotism, respect, reverence and instills a sense of civic duty. Over 300 flags were replaced.
After nearly two years, New Milford Township has finally begun to share information about its finances once again. At the close of their meeting of the Supervisors on May 20th, township Treasurer Scott Ferenczi provided listings of checks drawn on two accounts, one from the township's general fund, and one from an account designated for state funds, the latter funded largely by payments from the state as a "liquid fuels" subsidy.
The township stopped providing any detailed information about its finances in late summer of 2018. In September of that year, the township's secretary was terminated and the township underwent a lengthy process of "verifying" its books; no reasons were given for these actions. It was only early this year that audits were completed for 2018 and 2019. That information was made available through the state's Right-to-Know process. Now that the books have been audited, the Supervisors have seen fit to provide this list of expenses that appears to cover the period since the last meeting in mid-April.
For the month between about April 15 and May 20, the township spent a total of just over $60,000, of which just under $12,000 was from the state account, used mainly for work on the roads. One payment, to the Town of Union, for "Millings" in the amount of $18,564.24, was made out of the general fund account. Over $5,000 was paid from the general fund to two firms for accounting services. As of May 20, the township had just under $1.6 million in the bank. The listings did not show any deposits to the accounts.
Other business at the meeting covered the usual notices from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) about quarry and pipeline permits, as well as the county, one of them from the Conservation District relating to the "Gibson Commons," the outfit that runs a sewer plant at the Gibson exit on the interstate; the other, from the planning commission was an application for a 3-acre land swap involving the South New Milford Baptist church, which, according to Township Secretary Mary Jo Weston, plans to put up a pavilion and playground needing no water or sewage facilities.
The township also received notice that the New Milford Borough's mid-town festival would be cancelled this year. The township had made a donation of $100 to that program.
Solicitor Michael Briechle presented an agreement drawn up between the township and the Blue Ridge School District that enlists the township as the formal applicant for a grant to help build a playground at the school. The school district wanted an agreement to cover the application as well as the operation of the playground as a public amenity, but Mr. Briechle said that such an agreement would take more time, and that dividing the process into 2 phases would be better since there is no guarantee that a grant would be forthcoming.
Mr. Briechle also presented a draft of an ordinance that would attempt to protect the township's interests in the case of major losses due to fire on any property in the township. The ordinance, which must be advertised for a few weeks, would require that insurance companies involved in such incidents coordinate with the township so that unpaid taxes and other encumbrances are considered during the resolution of a property damage claim. In some cases, some part of the claim amount would have to be put into escrow to help ensure the appropriate cleanup. Although not part of this ordinance, the township could also add fees for administrative overhead incurred by the township involved in such situation. Unfortunately the new ordinance would not cover any properties already damaged by fire, of which there are three in the township so far.
The Supervisors also opened bids for chipping and sealing about 3.1 miles of roadway in the township. The bids, from Midland Asphalt, Suit-Kote and Vestal Asphalt, were not announced because one of them included a road that was not in the original bid specification. The Supervisors tabled a decision until that third bid could be clarified.
No special precautions were taken for the meeting in the township building other than spacing chairs for observers (there were only 2, one of them the township's Emergency Management Coordinator, Ken Bondurant) at least 6 feet apart; no one was wearing a mask; no one appeared to be sick.
The next public meeting of the New Milford Township Supervisors is scheduled for Wednesday, June 17, 2020, beginning at 7:30m in the township building on US Route 11 north of the borough.